Wednesday, November 01, 2006
A Peculiar People by Rodney Clapp and Life Together by Dietrich Bonhoeffer have inspired me to shape and stretch my thinking of how the church is called to interact with the world and how we are to live and be God's people. Keeping all of that in mind, I would like to focus on two ways in which the church can and should respond to our present day cultural situation. First, I will flesh out the idea of the doctrine of the trinity being central to all that we, as a church, are and aspire to be. Second, I will propose that the concept of God as eschatological unbound future is a hopeful and redeeming way to employ evangelism and to encourage proper community habits for the church.
If the premodern world was most concerned with ontology and the modern world was most concerned with epistemology, then I think it is fair to say that the postmodern world's main concern is hermeneutics. The question then becomes, through which lens do we choose to view life? I assert that, as Christians, the doctrine of the trinity has and will continue to play a central role in the formation of our communities and the manner in which we live our lives. Continuing to view the God relationship through the mode and economy of the trinity, I am confident, will lead us in the right direction. This seems to be the case regardless of any contextual situation.
The trinity of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit has and always will be the best example of living community. It is the responsibility of the church to model this loving relationship to one another and to the entire world. In the past the western world has too easily bought into the concept of God as ultimate oneness. This view of God has hindered the church by fueling the already prevailing lifestyles of consumerism and individualistic desires. As Rodney Clapp states, "Pastors and other church leaders face enormous pressures to concentrate on ministry as marketing and psychotherapy-both tendencies that concentrate the practice of faith on the individual." We need to recapture the correct view of relationship. I do not believe that God is only concerned with people groups. On the contrary He is very much concerned for us as individuals; unfortunately the pendulum of individualism has swung too far in one direction. The correct view consists of God, me, and others, as opposed to the incorrect view of me and God only. Thus Clapp rightly asserts, "...the gospel of Jesus Christ is about the salvation not of monadic, isolated individuals but of the world, of the entire groaning creation." (Romans 8:22)
Dietrich Bonhoeffer's Life Together oozes with aspirations of Trinitarian life. The central theme of the book begins not with community as an ideal, but as a divine reality. Just as the trinity consistently functions within this divine reality, so to should our communities aspire to live into this same reality. Bonhoeffer states, "A community which cannot bear and cannot survive such a crisis, which insists upon keeping illusion when it should be shattered, permanently loses in that moment the promise of Christian community." It is not our wishes or desires that form and shape our communities but rather the reality of God working in our lives in relation to one another. In the common day vernacular of our youth, "keeping it real" becomes our primary concern. Authentic Christian community simply is.
To speak of God as the eschatological future is not to immediately think of the popular dispensationalist view or even the Left Behind series. It is not a doomsday story of us versus them mentality, but rather a message of incorporation and an invitation to participate with God in the coming of His kingdom. Clapp says, "The Jewish and Christian hope is not for the flight of the soul, at death, to an invisible world of eternal reality. It is instead eschatological, looking not so much 'above' in space as 'ahead' in time, when God's new heaven and new earth will be realized in their fullness."
This story of the coming eschaton, when included with the overall scope of the gospel, is perhaps the most hopeful and tantalizing narrative present. To give a tangible example of this method of evangelism, helping others to encounter and embrace a more intimate relationship with God, I will refer to an ongoing conversation that I was privileged to have with a youth I served in my previous position as a youth minister.
This particular young lady had a view of God that I presume many Christians and non Christians alike would refer to when speaking of God. This view was of a vengeful and wrath filled god prepared to punish and pierce with lightning bolts at the first sign of any wrongdoing. Referring to the trinity and God as eschatological future was very helpful in reshaping and reorienting her position. I presented her with this scenario: Imagine the Holy Spirit is behind you, the Son is beside you and the Father is in front of you. Now, the Holy Spirit spurs us in the right direction while Jesus, the Son, walks directly beside us empathizing with our every mood and posture all the while encouraging us to press forward. The Father also encourages us to move forward but from the position of the unbound future. The idea of the unbound future invites us to enter into true partnership with God.
We are no longer left with the simple mechanistic world view of causation or action and reaction. Viewing God as the cosmic pool player who has made the initial break of the game, and is now sitting back to watch the balls crash into each other, is no longer our only option. The eschatological view allows for the option of God to break into history, our world, and even our very lives. John Milbank correctly states that eschatology, "...involves the claim that the 'interruption' of history by Christ and his bride, the Church, is the most fundamental of events, interpreting all other events. And it is most especially a social event, able to interpret other social formations, because it compares them with its own new social practice." Our social practices as the church should be in right relationship with this ever changing, dynamic and dialectical relationship of now but not yet.
Thus, Clapp is right to assert, "So what God has created in the church is a dynamic, ongoing form of life, a way of being human, which is to say an arena of social interaction that uniquely dwells in relationship with the one and true God and witnesses to a day when all creation will be in proper, fitting and true relation with that same God." Both the doctrine of the trinity and the concept of God as eschatological unbound future are vital to the prosperity and vigor of the church.
Anyway, I can't read your post right now because i'm watching Parental Control on MTV.
I did want to holler at THE Ohio State University vs Meeeechigan. #1 vs. #2 for the first time in history! Holy crap! Please tell me you can get that.
I'm pretty sure I understand. "Keeping it real"... you're SO emergent!